The Decline and Fall of The Simpsons: Rape jokes in Springfield

simpsons family guy crossover

Picture the scene. A beloved cartoon character, one pretty-much recognised the world over, re-enacts one of their most recognised routines for the benefit of a character from a newer show, a show which is entirely founded on ripping off the original. The other character responds by making a joke about rape.

Actually, you don’t need to picture the scene. If you have a mind, (or better again, half a mind,) you can go to YouTube and watch the trailer for the forthcoming “The Simpsons/Family Guy” crossover.

Bart Simpson and Stewie Griffin prank-call Moe’s Tavern, something Bart has done for a quarter of a century or more now. It’s one of the most familiar routines on TV at this point. Bart phones Moe Szyslak, asks for a customer with an unusual name and gets Moe to shout that “name” to the amusement of the patrons of his seedy bar. Moe then goes nuts and threatens appalling violence should he ever catch his tormentor and that’s all folks, till the next time.

“I. P. Freely”, “Seymour Butz” and “Hugh Jass” remain fixed in the public imagination but I consider  the very pinnacle of western civilisation to be Hank Azaria barking in his gravelly Al Pacino Dog Day Afternoon voice “Uh, Amanda Huggenkiss? Hey, I’m looking for Amanda Huggenkiss! Ah, why can’t I find Amanda Huggenkiss?”

In the unlikely event you don’t know him, Bart Simpson is a character who began life as a one-note, catchphrasing irritant and evolved over the years into a rounded character who, though still an anagrammatic Brat, developed a reluctant conscience and something approaching self-awareness.

Stewie Griffin from “Family Guy” is a matricidal baby with a Noel Coward voice.

Back to the prank call. This time, Bart phones Moe and asks for a friend, “Last name Keybum, first name Lee.” As usual, poor old Moe falls for it and the low-lifes in the bar crack up. Watching awestruck is Stewie Griffin, who decides he will copy Bart.

When Moe answers the phone, Stewie says “Hey Moe! Your sister is being raped.”

That’s it. That’s the joke.

Yes, I understand that it’s supposed to be a summation of the differences between the shows and their styles of humour. I get that it it’s supposed to be shocking. I accept that it says more about both programmes than all the jokes about Springfield natives looking like they have hepatitis and Peter Griffin’s entire life being built on fraud and theft.

It doesn’t matter. It’s still a joke about rape and the creators of “The Simpsons” should know better than to associate themselves with it or with the makers of a vacuous rip-off which revels in such “humour” on a weekly basis.

I’m not being holier-than-thou. “The Simpsons” has never shied away from dark subjects – Moe himself is a case in point. He is a violent man with a history of criminal activities. He has variously been depicted as homicidal, syphilitic and even as a stalker who is also a registered sex offender. And yet the character has been allowed many moments of nuance and tenderness too. Although an especially-ugly yellow-skinned cartoon character, Moe Szyslak is a recognisably-human character who has clearly known love and loss.

The nearest analogue “Family Guy” has to Moe is a clearly-implicit rapist who exults “Giggity-Giggity!” when he finds a cheerleader tied up in an outhouse. Hilarious stuff, I’m sure.

Moe

It’s hardly an original or insightful observation to note that “Family Guy” is what you’re left with if you subtract from “The Simpsons” every trace of kindness, warmth and decency and replace them with disjointed references to popular culture and an eagerness to make juvenile/edgy/wildly inappropriate (depending on your sensitivities) jokes.

I suspect that if they were real people, Homer Simpson would be that eejit you know from the pub and you just can’t explain to your friends why you like him. If you had to guess, though, you’d probably say it’s because for all his stupidity there’s no real bad in him and he has a great heart. And though he never stops whinging about them, nobody could question that he would lay down his life for his wife and kids.

Peter Griffin, on the other hand, would be that complete and utter jerk nobody would even expect you to try to justify hating.

We all know “The Simpsons” is long past its sell-by date but it’s depressing to see a once-great show sell its soul to pander to the fans of its own oafish and heartless imitator. Stewie Griffin responding to Bart Simpson’s prank-calls with a rape “joke” really sums up how just how far The Simpsons and its producers have fallen.

It’s past-time to bring down the curtain on “The Simpsons”. Hanging out with the mean kids won’t make you hip or relevant and lending credibility to your third-rate imitators just taints all of your former glory. Thanks for all the laughs, lads, but the joke’s over now and to be honest it just hasn’t been that funny for a long time.

Donal O’Keeffe

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46 thoughts on “The Decline and Fall of The Simpsons: Rape jokes in Springfield

  1. Holy crap, is THAT what’s on television these days? That’s what passes for a sitcom family show now? What do they do to up the ante on the rest of the shows, reenact segments of Grand Theft Auto with real people? Don’t answer that.

    (sigh) Glad I gave my TV away in 2006.

    • Actually…yes. Although I still fall in line with the rest of the fans of Family Guy. I like the Simpsons, too. I guess the hard-edged humor of Family Guy just speaks to the baser side of me. We all wonder what it would be like to just throw our humanity to the wind at times. And denying that is the same as denying…ah, well, that’s the baser side of me talking. I’ll leave it at that.

      • Rape is not something about which to joke. Ever. There is nothing funny about rape. Anyone who has ever been raped will tell you that. Anyone who has ever known anyone who was raped can do the same.

        Pandering to the emotionally and intellectually immature is what “Family Guy” does. It’s profoundly depressing to see a once-great show like “The Simpsons” joining it in its race to the bottom.

      • Rape is not funny. I agree. But that was the joke. Bart was pranking Moe with something harmless–Stewie not getting it and “pranking” Moe with something that should never be joked about is the joke. Stewie is socially inept–that’s his character. This “joke” existed to highlight that aspect of Stewie’s character and to draw a clear contrast between Bart and Stewie.

      • Also, the picture you painted of Peter Griffin as irredeemable is not accurate. Have you watched the episode where Meg gets a makeover and is seduced by a man on national TV as a prank? Peter goes full paternal and knocks the guy out. Peter would lay his life down for his family, just the same as Homer.

      • That episode is not a good example to use, since at the end of the beat down, Peter reveals he is beating him up for having a rotten TV show, but before he can exact revenge for Meg, the guy makes his escape. So Peter’s 1st thought/motivation was just satisfying his own peeves instead of having true concern/outrage for his daughter.

      • I believe that Peter is merely poking fun at Meg throughout the series. Like a little boy who refuses to admit that he’s friends with an icky girl, but won’t let her get picked on by anyone else, either.

      • Concealing the dark part of yourself, continually fighting against it, is exhausting. I believe it is better to live wrongly in a vicarious fashion than to allow the evil in any of us to explode like shaken champagne. Those corks can be dangerous.

      • I think that it is more important to acknowledge these different parts of ourselves and challenging them is an important process towards growth. Lacking insight for the things that we believe to be true about ourselves seems very irresponsible. I don’t think that living “wrongly” without checking yourself is healthy at all. Can you please elaborate by what you mean? (In case I am misinterpreting)

        Because I am interpreting this as an allowance for alcoholics to be alcoholics because that’s just who they are and it would be dangerous for them to not be alcoholics.

      • Sure. I mean that people who think they can never be angry should themselves have an argument in their minds. Hell, they should let themselves carry out a murder in their minds. Venting is important. Letting the “bad” feelings build up without expressing them is what leads to bad and often impulsive actions. In relation to Family Guy, it’s a show containing characters who just have no filter. Because of that, it can carry a sort of therapeutic quality.

      • I gotta reply to this one. If you turn your back on a noxious weed, and don’t water it… it’s probably going to grow anyway. And because you’re turning your back on it, you won’t be watching to know it’s growing anyway. And it’ll get bigger and bigger back there until one day it gets big enough that you’re standing in ITS shadow. Better to keep an eye on it so you know when it’s safely small, and when to reach for the weed killer.

  2. We all have our no-humor zones. Rape is certainly one of them for many, if not most. For me, religion in general, or Christianity in particular, is one. I used to think that all humor makes fun of someone or something, and that for there to be humor, there must be the acknowledgement that someone is going to be offended. But maybe it’s possible to be funny, yet still warm-hearted, and accepting, as opposed to cynical and seperatist. I really don’t know if that’s possible anymore. But I’d like to think so.

  3. I was just having a conversation about this myself. I commented that my boyfriend was kind of like Homer Simpson.. and this was not an insult in my book. Now, Homer may be a bit of an idiot, a tad selfish and doesn’t always handle things the right way.. but he tries.
    He truely loves his family. He usually creates some kind of insane situation and then works like Hell to fix it.. not for himself but for those he loves.

    Peter on the other hand is an ass.. I used to wonder why Lois put up with it till I started to realize that she’s an ass too. Homer and Marge however are “human” with faults and imperfections who accept each other as is.. blue hair and all. Because they really do love one another.

  4. No on really likes any of the ‘new’ episodes of The Simpsons, do they? Didn’t we all just pretend they didn’t happen and bask in the glory of the good episodes? If not, let’s just do it!

  5. I absolutely agree on your views. Rape is absolutely out of the humour universe for me. Even a horrendous phrase like “hey, your mom is being murdered” sounds less violent than a rape joke. Shame on you, Mayor Quimby…

  6. Considering I never liked Family Guy from the beginning, hearing an impartial voice on the subject leads me to once again call for Family Guy to be banned fo Network TV. Seth McFarline clearly didn’t learn his lesson the first time FOX pulled the show. Neither did the fans.

    Let’s put the Rape “Joke” aside for a moment: Every single episode of Family Guy is filled with lucid jokes and forced gags with the express intent of offending those who know better. It clearly isn’t appropriate for childten yet a whole generation of kids have tuned in every week.

    I do want to clarify something on the subject of “original vs. imitator”. While yes, Seth McFarline used a similar formula with The Griffins Matt that Groening used for The Simpsons, that’s as far as the similarities go. In both cases you have the crazy father (Homer and Peter), the Passive-Aggressive wife (Marge and Lois) and the sociopathic child (Bart and Stewie). Maggie, Lisa, Meg and Chris don’t parellel each other so…yeah. Neither do Brian and Santa’s Little Helper.

    The reason The Simpsons lasted as long as it has is because UNLIKE Family Guy they allowed the supporting cast in The Simpsons to be developed. THAT’S that secret to its success. Oh, and of course The Simpsons also hold the World Record for most Celebrity Guest appearances on a primetime TV Show, a record that will likely never be broken XD

    With Family Guy, it’s basically the same old garbage every episode. The random flashbacks happened so much in the show’s early years you could see them coming. They were so off-base, most of the time you have no idea how to react to them.

    I don’t know if this Family Guy/Simpsons Crossover episode is real or fanmade but if it was real, I wouldn’t be surprised if McFarline took the lead in writing the episode. Groening may be old be he’s not out of touch with reality or the fact The Simpsons have earned a well-deserved place in American Pop Culture. And they did it taking the high road. McFarline goes out of his way to be offensive to his audience.

    Of course, he tried to bring the show back on Cable TV Networks (Cartoon Network, Comedy Central, TNT and TBS) but they all said no. The only reason FOX took him back is because of that Social Media Campain by his brainwashed fans.

    Now let’s get back to the Rape “Joke”. This is why McFarline should be banned from the entertainment business. He’s proven over and over again he can’t be funny without being offensive. What’s ok to say with friends somewhere is NOT ok to say on TV. What most might not be aware of is when Family Guy first launched, McFarline maintained complete creative control over the show. That was a stipulation he fought for as part of his contract with FOX. When the show came back a few years after it was pulled, he was forced to give up some creative control of the show (which fans immediately noticed) if he didn’t want to get in trouble again.

    This stunt…I don’t expect FOX to overlook it. I’m just surprised more folks aren’t talking about it because it IS a big deal. See, the difference between Family Guy and South Park is while the latter is intentionally offensive, you can look past the offensive content and enjoy the real-world issues the show tackles head-on. That the secret to South Park’s success. Well, that and waiting until the end to see how Kenny randomly dies (LOL!). With Family Guy, there’s no hidden wisdom or insight.

    Just garbage.

    • So anyone who thinks rape is offensive must be someone who “cries at sunsets”? Wow…..you just exemplified all that is wrong with people today. Very sad.

      • I’m sorry to inform you but comedy has always pushed the limits of what is offensive its rough so we laugh about it, sorry youre so sensitive

  7. Reblogged this on The Life & Times of Ice and commented:
    When I was growing up my brother would never let me watch the Simpsons and now I see why & that is how I feel about Family Guy with my niece and nephew only its worse. I used to watch Family Guy a little but “rape” jokes no matter how nonchalant are just not funny. Maybe these shows need to just end they’re getting a little old.

  8. I highly doubt the Simpsons creative team was behind that tripe. Lest we forget that this was a crossover with Family Guy. Seth MacFarlane’s racist, sexist schtick has ruffled enough feathers that’s I’m surprised his entertainment exile hasn’t happened a long time ago. Though The Simpsons team is certainly complicit in allowing this to air, I believe you’re pointing your finger at the wrong person here.

    • See my above post. He was exhiled for a time but no thanks to a social media campaign led by brainwashed fans, the show came back and brough American Dad as well as The Cleveland Show with it.

  9. Rape should never be in any program u less it’s in a serious show about stopping it never mind a cartoon that children watch each day. I watched the Simpson every day when I was growing up and never did they come so low as rape jokes. Children should not be seeing this. Imagine a kid wanting to know what it meant and asking their parents. That is something that no parents will want their children to hear about

    Bigphillysfootyblog.wordpress.com

  10. I am truly amazed at what I’ve just watched. How one phone call has just changed my perceptions of The Simpsons completely (them allowing this to happen), but strangely thinking that if Stewie had made the phone call during a Family Guy episode (with no Simpsons involved) I would have thought it completely normal.

    Thankfully it wasn’t, because I’m now searching my soul to wonder whether I would have laughed or not.

  11. I love the Simpsons but even I must admit that it has run it’s course. I’m excited though about the new cartoon renaissance: Bob’s Burgers and Adventure Time, lead the way!

  12. Ugh, I totally agree. I’ve never been big on either show, but I just can’t stand Family Guy. It’s one of the most offensive shows I’ve ever seen. It makes me sick that Seth Macfarlane gets such a kick out of rape. I’m waiting for everyone to wake up and realize what garbage that kind of “humor” actually is.

  13. Although I’ve watched Family Guy occasionally (and enjoyed it) I have to admit that I’ve always had my feet firmly in the Simpsons camp. Its humour, for me at least, is comparatively harmless and therefore provides a better means for easy watching. Personally, I don’t want to be worrying about the ethical shortcomings of a joke while I’m trying to relax and the ‘joke’ displayed in the video is distasteful to say the least.

  14. The Simpsons were something I grew up with. They had their own style. Why ruin it? Well I guess it’s all about money. Sad.

  15. I have a big adversity to the poor taste in jokes regarding rape. Being forced to do something one does not want to do is an act of violence. For some reason, many people have an opinion on the topic of rape when in my mind, everyone should be appalled.

    Thank you for being brave and writing on a subject with many facets and point of views. I hope none of the people ever experience rape nor none of their close family members. Chances are if the topic is brought up, someone will know a person who has been forced into the act of rape.

  16. I don’t think rape is funny, nor should it be the subject of a joke, but I think you’re missing the point. For starters it isn’t a rape joke, rape is not the subject, Stewie is the subject of the joke. Something essential about his (admittedly limited) character is what’s being highlighted by the joke.

    Now, if the it had been a joke about rape and about the victim of a rape, well then that would have been unacceptable.

  17. First of all, I have to say I love both these shows. The initial idea that they could be compatible with another is, I think, deeply flawed. The Simpsons, while poking fun at popular culture and famous figures could never be said to be aggressively offensive, as Family Guy is.
    The unfortunate thing is that many children are allowed to watch Simpsons, it is considered to be family entertainment. Family Guy, on the other hand, I would say it definitely not family viewing. I’m fairly open minded and find Family Guy offensive, funny yes, but still very offensive.
    The ‘rape’ ‘joke’ merely proves a point that perhaps Family guy ought to have adopted the humorous stance of The Simpsons, rather than blowing it’s ‘family show’ out of the water.

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